By Jessica Isaacs
Friends new and old joined forces on Monday night to celebrate the latest cycle of grant funding released by the Women’s Fund of the Blue Ridge to a long list of local nonprofits, which cover a seven-county area and work to improve life for women and girls in our rural, low-population area.
Downtown Boone’s popular Vidalia Restaurant and Wine Bar opened its doors during off hours and offered up a wide variety of appetizers and drinks specifically to host the Women’s Fund on this special occasion.
The WFBR is an inclusive fund that requires no membership fee from its members, and the most affordable level at which to join is just 10 hours of volunteer work.
Two separate entities, the Appalachian and the High Country women’s funds, united in recent years to form today’s fund, a true coalition of like-minded local philanthropists who know that together their work can move mountains.
The fund distributed $107,000 to 16 different nonprofit agencies for 18 different programs on Monday night at its inaugural Harvesting Hope grant presentation event. This grant cycle completes a cumulative total of more than $1 million in funds released by today’s fund and its two predecessors that have since joined forces.
Before handing out checks, WFBR Executive Director Karen Sabo spoke to a packed house, inviting each person in the room to join her in recognizing every single dollar raised as a step toward real and positive change in the community.
“It’s wonderful to get those checks. Those are exciting days,” Sabo said to the crowd. “But I think that sharing that kind of joy in philanthropy is important, which is why, tonight, we are celebrating the power of your support.”
She welcomed with a bright smile those representing the agencies receiving the funds, and she thanked the contributors and the Good Samaritans in the room for their tireless efforts and their valuable gifts.
“We fight hunger. We help middle school girls build and keep their self-esteem through the very difficult teen years,” Sabo said. “We alleviate homelessness and hold up a light for those striving to learn and to embrace education.
“It’s easier to look the other way about problems that plague society that hold back our sisters and our daughters and our mothers. Thanks to all of you for taking the more difficult step of realizing that others need your help; and for embracing change within yourselves by giving; and by waking up every day knowing that you are doing what you can to heal the world.”
Visit the Women’s Fund of the Blue Ridge online to learn more about what it does, who it serves and how to help.
2015-2016 awards included:
$5,000 to ASU ACCESS
(“Appalachian Commitment to a College Education for Student Success”)
“Our very first program offers low-income students from North Carolina a four-year university education at Appalachian State University debt-free. This program accepts students from families at or below poverty level,” Sabo said. “The program supplements their federal and state financial aid, their grants and the student’s wages to make sure that the students are covered and they can afford to go to college. The women’s fund gives many scholarships to female students from this program so that these hard-working, ambitious, hopeful students can finish in the four years they’re given.”
$5,000 to A Safe Home for Everyone
“This is one of the four domestic violence agencies that we’re funding this year, and those four cover five counties. This one from Ashe County provides services such as 24-hour crisis assistance, shelter for families in crisis, court advocacy and accompaniment, support groups for adults and children, counseling, education and financial assistance for survivors to become self-sufficient.”
$2,000 to Ashe Family Literacy
“This is a group we are funding for the very first time. This educational organization saw a need to serve the recent Spanish-speaking immigrants to our beautiful area,” Sabo said. “In many of these families, the men work and the women remain isolated in the home with no opportunity to learn the English they need to know to navigate in their new culture. Our funding for this program provides women with preschool children the opportunity to complete their secondary education while their children are being cared for and prepared for success in school.”
$5,000 to Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture
“They provide women with the opportunity to advance toward agricultural sustainability, to improve their economic status and to address gender inequalities in a field that has long been seen as just for men,” Sabo said.
$6,000 to the Children’s Council: Child Care, Early Literacy and Family Services
$8,000 to the Children’s Council: Parents as Teachers
“We are very pleased to be bale to give to grants to the next program, especially as we learn more about how the first five years of a person’s life affect their happiness and wellbeing for the rest of their life,” Sabo said. “This Watauga County agency provides services and programs to children and families for childcare, early literacy and for helping people learn the stresses of parenting and how to handle them in the way that is best for their children. We are very pleased to fund the program to care for the children for low-income moms working on their GED, and for the parents as teachers program, which is parenting education and support to clients of Oasis and the Hospitality House. Thanks for your great work to the Children’s Council.”
$4,000 to the Community Care Clinic: Women’s Health
$10,000 to the Community Care Clinic: Dental Care
“This program helps low-income, uninsured women get the basic and emergency affordable dental care they need and also addresses vision care for the very vulnerable population of diabetic women,” Sabo said. “We are so grateful to have this organization in our community.”
$5,000 to DANA
(“Domestic Abuse is Not Acceptable”)
“This agency addresses not only domestic violence and sexual assault, but also child abuse and elder care,” Sabo said. “They fill a lot of gaps up there in Allegheny County and we give them money that they use to help women leave violent relationships and rebuild their lives.”
$4,000 to Girls on the Run
“We’re very fortunate to have local branches of a national nonprofit that provides preadolescent girls the tools that they need to embrace their individual strength through exercise and healthy lifestyles,” Sabo said. “Girls who participate in organized sports are likely as adults to leave abusive relationships sooner and to have even more success in leadership roles. We are very pleased to support coach training and participant scholarships for Girls on the Run.”
$5,000 to the Women’s Shelter at the Hospitality House
“This agency has a great motto, ‘a hand up, not a hand out.’ They have many, many programs for their residents and have helped hundreds and hundreds of people get back on their feet,” Sabo said. “They also have a new solar program which is the first of its kind that we know of in the entire country.”
$5,000 to the Hunger and Health Coalition
“I’ve learned some things that are very sobering about elderly women on fixed incomes. Many of them lack proper nutrition because of poverty and also a lack of transportation,” Sabo said. “But we have a local agency that is addressing this, and they aim to improve the health and wellbeing of women over the age of 60 through local distribution of food and vitamins.”
$4,000 to Mitchell County Safe Place
This is an agency that we are funding for the very first time and I love their program,” Sabo said. “They’re a domestic violence, sexual assault and elder abuse agency, but the program that we’re funding is a prevention program. We are supporting their action of visiting middle schools to educate kids about preventing domestic violence in their own lives.”
$10,000 to The New Opportunity School for Women
“You’ve heard the phrase, ‘give a woman a fish and you feed her for a day.’ This next program not only teaches her how to fish, but how to make a resume, how to create personal budget and how to conduct an online job search, which is really the modern equivalent of learning to fish,” Sabo said. “This Avery County program is a three-week intensive immersion program for low-income women to help improve their financial, educational and personal circumstances. When I got to run this program, I called it a three-week life makeover.”
$10,000 for OASIS
(Opposing Abuse through Service, Information and Shelter)
“This agency took little time in filling in the gap in the closing of the Avery County program a few years ago, and such a forward action came as no surprise,” Sabo said. “This program is a model of efficiency, caring and using funds wisely and well. We are funding safe shelter and case management for survivors through OASIS.”
$8,000 to WAMY Community Action
“This agency fills a lot of gaps that our local departments of social services cannot cover. We love funding programs that help women learn to enter or reenter the workforce so they can be self-sufficient and help support their families,” Sabo said. “We support this organization’s total family development program, which works with low-income individuals and families who are working toward self-sufficiency through training, paid work experience and transitional services covering Watauga, Avery, Mitchell and Yancey Counties.”
$2,000 to WeCAN
“This next program was created to consolidate the many, many requests to local churches,” Sabo said. “As we approach winter, we remember the importance of this homelessness prevention program offered to women who face eviction, utility cut-offs, heating fuel shortages and medication needs.”
$9,000 to Western Youth Network
The last program that will get a grant from us tonight goes to a crucial local program founded 30 years ago at the urging of our own wonderful board member Jan Rienerth,” Sabo said. “There was a need to serve marginalized youth who were in need of behavioral, academic and emotional support through afterschool and summer programs. Their program that we are proud to support with this grant is the Girls’ Circle, a structured support group to help at-risk girls maintain healthy relationships and good self-esteem and learn to communicate their feelings and thoughts.”